Lack of Ferndale Trail System

It is an absolute shame that Ferndale has so many great parks and so many miles of great trails, yet the parks are like islands with most of the trails seemingly going nowhere.  And it’s a double shame because many of the problems could be solved without major restructuring of the city or mega-million dollar taxes. However, none of the problems will likely be solved primarily because our city government lacks the vision of the park and trail system that Ferndale needs.  I ranted a bit on this in an earlier post, but promised an update.  This is the update.

Geographically Ferndale has 4 quadrants, as carved out by Main Street and the Nooksack River.  Recreationally, each quadrant has their own attractions, but each quadrant is also isolated from each other and travel within each quadrant is hit and miss.  My vision is that each quadrant will have it’s own loop trail and that all 4 of these loops will be interconnected in a way that we could safely walk or bike to, from, and within each of these quadrants.   Through time additional spurs could be added to places like the library or new neighborhoods as they pop up, but the core needs to be established first.

Imagine if…

  • You could park at Griffintown Park and safely stroller/trailer your kids to Star Park, then back for ice cream at Edaleen’s.
  • You could simply just walk on a path to Star Park?  Maybe from the Boys & Girls Club, Pioneer Park, the Library, or from sports fields? or ?
  • You could walk a loop while your kids are at practice?  maybe a loop with Star Park if you have younger kids also?
  • You could take a path to Hovander Homestead from anywhere in Ferndale without crossing Main Street?
  • We actually had a mile marked jogging/walking/cycling path?
  • Our Senior Center were connected to a walking path?

Imagine some other benefits that would come with a great system of parks and trails

  • More walking and biking might mean less traffic.
  • Connected paths also mean shared parking – park anywhere on the system.
  • Done right, access would be safer from place to place.
  • General wellness – more walking, biking etc, and good paths can be used throughout the year, no mud.
  • A Destination Trail system will rival Bellingham – means people stay here, or come here, with business.
  • An existing Destination Trail system will seed development along the path, rather than have each developer create their own little isolated path.
  • More path use builds a culture of fitness within our community.

I recently took a portion of one of our beautiful warm spring evenings to put pedal to my vision of a connected system of trails and parks for Ferndale.

Relive ‘Ferndale Loops’

A few things surprised me as I rode the loops.  First, most of the routes are already being used to some extent or another and for one reason or another,  the route just isn’t established.  Second, just how crazy some things are: Riverwalk Park – both ends flow into roads without crosswalks, Griffintown Park flows into rail track behind safety barrier.  Third, it took just an hour to do the whole set of 4 loops.  Last, the system is almost 9 miles long (we could easily hold a 5k, or even a 10k).

Breakdown of the four loops:

  1. SW Pioneer Park Loop – Boys & Girls Club, Senior Center, Pioneer Park, Pioneer Plaza, Philips Field, other play fields, American Legion Hall, Bike Park, Hanadori Trail, Ferndale Community Garden, Star Park, Riverwalk Park, Fountain, seasonal Farmer’s Market – Library could be added to loop with new trail from Bike Park area.
  2. SE Hovander Loop – Dog Park, River access, Hovander Homestead Park with all their events, trail access to south along river, Fragrance Garden, Tenant Lake
  3. NE Golf Course Loop – Carnation building, Taco Time, DQ, rest to be determined as area is developed. – didn’t ride full loop, private property signs up near the motel.  There is evidence of a plan for developing a park/trail in this Ferndale Park & Trail Plan from 2013, but I haven’t heard anything more concrete for the area other than apartments.
  4. NW Vanderyacht Griffintown Loop – disc golf, river access, Vanderyacht, Griffintown, Edaleen’s,

As is, the loops can be done right now, I did them.  However just because someone like myself manages to do them doesn’t mean that they are ready for prime time, because they are definitely not.  Each loop needs something, but as I read back through these somethings, I noticed that many are independent of each other.  That is, they could be done a little at a time.  Here’s a starter list,

  • Path form Pioneer Park to Star Park – path would also allow extra parking, and also allow fence between fast limited sight road and only allow access at south end.
  • Path between American Legion area and Star Park – again more parking access, especially for parents of ball players who may want to walk siblings over to Star Park during practice.
  • Path & Crosswalk from south end of Star Park/Community Garden over to gravel river walk path
  • Connection/transition from gravel river walk path to Riverwalk Park proper.
  • Nice wide crosswalk from Riverwalk Park to Senior Center with path to B & G sidewalk.
  • A biggie here – Riverwalk Park needs a ramped underpass to cross under Main St. Riverwalk Park, as is flows directly into Main Street, but offers no means of crossing.
  • Vanderyacht is pretty good as a loop itself, but a path up Washington or Willard would extend loop to Griffintown and Edaleen’s.  Griffintown dumping on to RR track is a problem, crosswalk on Washington might stop traffic on RR tracks, maybe up a block at Willard would be safer.
  • The limited use road under rail bridge near carwash should be limited to pedestrians and cyclists only, with improvements to connect to Riverwalk and bridge.  A path connector from this area could be made to Vista by going behind the carwash, Hawley’s, Tru-Value and the City’s building creating a connector from the Hill that didn’t cross tracks nor the busy section of Main St.  Great bang for the buck connector that would marry well with bike lanes up and down Vista.
  • Path from bridge through old skate park and under both rail bridge and Main St forming connections to Golf Course Loop and Hovander Loop
  • Whatcom County could improve the path on the east side of the off-leash area in Hovander.  It’s not necessary, but would create a loop and would be nice if Ferndale could push the county on doing this as part of a trail system.
  • Ferndale could create a designated path from Dog Park area to connect with over and under bridge trails on SE side of Main St.
  • Main St bridge needs improved barrier between sidewalks/paths and bridge traffic on all four corners of bridge.  If we want this as part of a trail system, walkers, especially kids, need to be better protected on this busy thoroughfare.  Existing fences are weird for how short they are, what are they supposed to be doing?

So there’s my vision and I’ll stick to it.  I may even keep riding it in the same fashion that I ride the Nooksack Loop Trail that both doesn’t exist and yet still runs through Ferndale.  Remember, we aren’t talking about monumental tasks like a dedicated pedestrian bridge over the river, or a Thornton Overpass, or even a respectable high school.  We are talking about mostly signage, fences, gravel and a concrete to start.

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Poor as my writing might be, I still like to write. I’ve written a blog or two in the past, but at one point or another they each became a chore rather than a joyful pastime. C.S. Lewis said, regarding writing, “Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.” I will be following Lewis’ advice so this blog, which bears my name, will remain a joyful pastime. Hope you like bikes.